The Ring Ratings Reviewed 2023: Featherweight
The Ring first introduced its divisional ratings in 1925. Almost a century later, it’s no exaggeration to claim that these independent rankings are the most respected and talked about in world boxing.
The Ring Ratings Panel is made up of a dozen experts from around the world. Opinions are shared, debate takes place, and the final decision on who should be ranked where is decided democratically every week. It sounds easy, but this can be an arduous and time-consuming process.
During the pandemic, we reviewed and broke down each division in full. In a two-pronged approach, we looked back at the respective achievements of the finest fighters in the world and analyzed what lay ahead.
Last year, we looked back on how each division was doing and have decided after a busy first half of 2023 to compile another divisional breakdown.
Next up is featherweight, which has several very good fighters spread out across the globe jockeying for the right to be the best. As always, please enjoy the debate and respect other people’s opinions.
No. 1 – LUIS ALBERTO LOPEZ
RECORD: 28-2 (16 KOs)
THE PAST: The Mexicali native turned professional in 2015 and moved through the ranks but dropped decisions to Abraham Montoya (SD 10) and Ruben Villa (UD 10) while learning on the job. He won nine consecutive fights notably beating previously unbeaten trio of Cristian Baez (TKO 5), Gabriel Flores Jr. (UD 10) and Isaac Lowe (KO 7) to become the IBF mandatory challenger for Josh Warrington. When that chance came he edged out Warrington (MD 12) in the defending champion’s hometown. He took his title to Michael Conlan’s backyard in Belfast and stunned the locals by stopping the Irishman in five rounds.
THE FUTURE: Lopez will defend his title against Joet Gonzalez in Corpus Christi, Texas on September 15.
No. 2 – REY VARGAS
RECORD: 36-1 (22 KOs)
THE PAST: Vargas won the WBC 122-pound title when he outboxed Gavin McDonnell (MD 12). The tall Mexican boxer made five defenses of the title, notably beating Ronnie Rios (UD 12), Azat Hovhannisyan (UD 12) and Tomoki Kameda (UD 12). However, injuries and Covid slowed his activity. He fought just once in three years but bounced back to outbox Mark Magsayo (SD 12) for the WBC title. The 32-year-old headed to 130 pounds to try to become a three-weight world titleholder when he contested the vacant WBC belt but he was outboxed by O’Shaquie Foster (UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Likely to return to 126 pounds against Brandon Figueroa next, although he may request a voluntary defense first.
No. 3 – LEIGH WOOD
RECORD: 27-3 (16 KOs)
THE PAST: Wood had been a 10-year pro when he claimed the vacant British title at the expense of Reece Mould (TKO 9). That triumph vaulted him into a fight with Chinese punching machine Xu Can, who Wood shockingly upset by final-round stoppage. The 35-year-old proved that was no fluke by getting off the canvas early to roar back and stop Michael Conlan (TKO 12) while trailing on all three scorecards in The Ring’s 2022 Fight of the Year. He rolled the dice and met dangerous Mexican puncher Mauricio Lara in February and despite being ahead on the scorecards was stopped in seven rounds. Wood invoked the rematch clause and outboxed a lackluster Lara (UD 12) to regain his title.
THE FUTURE: Wood is scheduled to defend his crown against fellow Brit Josh Warrington in Manchester, England on October 7.
No. 4 – ROBEISY RAMIREZ
RECORD: 13-1 (8 KOs)
THE PAST: Ramirez, who won gold at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, turned professional to great acclaim after defecting from Cuba. Things didn’t go to plan when Ramirez was stunned by Adan Gonzales (SD 4) in his pro debut, but the worm turned quickly. After regrouping, he shutout Gonzalez (UD 6) in a rematch and has gone from strength to strength. The 29-year-old southpaw looked the real deal in taking apart Eric Donovan (TKO 3) and previously unbeaten Abraham Nova (KO 5). Those wins landed him a shot at the vacant WBO title which he won by dominating Isaac Dogboe (UD 12). He has since made one defense against Satoshi Shimizu (TKO 5) in Japan.
THE FUTURE: You’d expect him to defend his title in the last couple of months of the year before taking aim at one of his rival champions in a unification match next year.
No. 5 – BRANDON FIGUEROA
RECORD: 24-1-1 (18 KOs)
THE PAST: Figueroa followed his older brother, Omar (a former lightweight titleholder), into boxing, initially earning his stripes on the local scene in Texas. When his chance came, he lived up to his “Heartbreaker” moniker by stopping Oscar Escandon (KO 10) and Moises Flores (KO 3) in bouts that put him in the 122-pound rankings. The 26-year-old impressed by knocking out previously unbeaten Luis Nery (KO 7) with a savage body shot, earning him the WBC 122-pound belt. He was edged out narrowly when he tried to unify with WBO titlist Stephen Fulton (MD 12), and then moved up to featherweight (a more natural division given his tall and rangy frame) and has won twice, including, most recently, against Mark Magsayo (UD 12) in a fan-friendly shootout.
THE FUTURE: As the WBC interim titleholder, he’s owed a shot at Vargas which may come in the fall.
No. 6 – MAURICIO LARA
RECORD: 26-3-1 (19 KOs)
THE PAST: Lara was unknown when he was handpicked to face the then-unbeaten Josh Warrington in February 2021. The Brit tried to warm himself into the fight, but the Mexican swung for the fences and caused considerable damage. After dropping Warrington in the fourth round, Lara poured on the aggression and scored a ninth-round knockout. The two met in a rematch but a clash of heads led to an inconclusive no-contest ruling in Round 2. The 25-year-old scored a savage stoppage of Leigh Wood (TKO 7) to claim the WBA title but lost the belt in a direct rematch when he came in over the division limit and looked sluggish, dropping a 12-round unanimous decision.
THE FUTURE: “Bronco” went from hero to zero with his non-effort last time out. Will have to double down and start again. At his best is a match for anyone at 126-pounds.
No. 7 – MARK MAGSAYO
RECORD: 24-2 (16 KOs)
THE PAST: The popular Filipino southpaw is blessed with hand speed and impressive power. On his way up he beat Chris Avalos (TKO 6), Shota Hayashi (UD 12), former world titleholder Pungluang Sor Singyu (UD 12), and he also scored a stirring come-from-behind knockout of Julio Ceja (KO 10). Magsayo claimed the WBC title by defeating long-reigning titleholder Gary Russell Jr. (MD 12) in a huge upset, but he lost the title to Vargas (SD 12) in his maiden defense and then dropped a decision to Figueroa (UD 12).
THE FUTURE: Magsayo has talked about heading to 130 pounds.
No. 8 – JOSH WARRINGTON
RECORD: 31-2-1 (8 KOs)
THE PAST: Warrington went the traditional route of winning British, Commonwealth and European championships before defeating IBF titleholder Lee Selby (SD 12). The hugely popular Leeds-born fighter made three defenses, notably turning back the challenges of Carl Frampton (UD 12) and Kid Galahad (SD 12). He vacated his title rather than face Galahad a second time and came unstuck against Lara (TKO 9). The rematch was curtailed at the end of the second round, due to a clash of heads. But the 32-year-old regained his IBF title by stopping Kiko Martinez (TKO 7) in a fight that left the Brit with a broken jaw. However, he has since lost it to Lopez (MD 12).
THE FUTURE: Warrington will look to become a three-time featherweight titleholder when he challenges Leigh Wood for the WBA laurels on October 7.
No. 9 – REIYA ABE
RECORD: 25-3-1 (10 KOs)
THE PAST: Abe turned professional after a lowkey amateur career and lost his second fight. However, he persevered and at the third time of asking claimed the Japanese national title having come up short against Taiki Minamoto (D 10) and Ryo Sagawa (UD 10). Galvanized by those experiences, he strung three wins together and then upset once-touted Hinata Murata (UD 12) to become national champion. After one defense against Jinki Maeda (MD 12), he bested grizzled former two-weight titleholder Kiko Martinez (UD 12) in an IBF eliminator.
THE FUTURE: He is Lopez’s IBF mandatory challenger but may have to stay busy before getting his title opportunity.
No. 10 – RUBEN VILLA
RECORD: 20-1 (7 KOs)
THE PAST: Villa turned professional after a decorated amateur career with the now-defunct Thompson Boxing and Artie Pelullo. They expertly maneuvered him to a world title shot. Along the way he scored a win that has aged well against future IBF titlist Lopez (UD 10). When he challenged for the WBO title against Emanuel Navarrete he was dropped twice early but always chased the fight en route to dropping a competitive 12-round unanimous decision. The 26-year-old took an 18-month hiatus before returning with two wins.
THE FUTURE: “Drac” will fight Brandon Valdez on the Lopez-Gonzalez undercard on September 15. All being well will look to secure a world title shot at one of the world titles next year, potentially against the Lopez-Gonzalez winner.
On the Cusp: Nick Ball, Raymond Ford, Joet Gonzalez, Victor Morales and Otabek Kholmatov
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